10th Anniversary of Meditation Illuminated!

Being that my dad graduated MIT with an engineering degree, I learned to be efficient from a young age. 

So it’s no surprise that I like to learn in a way that’s simple, clear and logical. 

But learning how to meditate in the mid-1980s was anything but simple, clear and logical. Every book, every lecture, every program – for that matter, everything having to do with meditation seemed so mysterious. 

Why couldn’t someone just tell me exactly how meditation worked and how to do it?!! So I did a deep dive into learning, exploring meditation piece by piece until a coherent picture emerged. 

I discovered that meditation was not about stopping thoughts, but about becoming aware of them. I learned how to watch these thoughts and allow them to pass. I learned how to focus on my breath and steady my mind. I became less reactive. Less judgmental. Less stressed. More grounded. More accepting. More relaxed.

After decades of learning, I wrote Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind to bring others the simple explanations I longed for years earlier. Published 10 years ago in July 2013, my intent was to share ideas and practices that could transform lives —and help people find some clarity, inspiration, and peace amidst life’s challenges. 

Over the years, I’m been humbled that so many people have shared with me how much they value my book. I’ve received comments such as “Your book has a special place on my nightstand,” “I keep buying new copies, since I keep giving my copy to friends,” “I actually learned to calm my mind”  and “thank you for writing this book!”

Meditation techniques have made such a tremendous difference in my life – and I’m deeply grateful to all the teachers who’ve so generously shared their wisdom. Writing this straightforward primer has been my way of paying it forward.

10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work

As I exited the lecture hall, I came face-to-face with the presenter, a leading meditation teacher.

Welcome to week ten, the final week of 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work, where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness.

– Asking a Question

The teacher smiled warmly as I said, “I loved your talk! But I have a question; would you have a moment to answer?” He graciously agreed.

I continued, “I’ve touched moments of peace and calm — when looking at a sunset, playing with my dog or listening to the ocean waves, but then that feeling disappears. How do I get it back?”

– A Profound Response 

Still smiling, the teacher said softly, “If it was true before, is it not true now?”

His response surprised me. It was so simple, but also so true.

– Inner Calm

Years later, I now offer mindfulness program for the workplace. 

I’ve witnessed people accessing a place of inner calm for a fleeting moment before all the STUFF (Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations and Feelings) that cycles in the mind obscures any peace of mind. 

But the good news is that if you access that calm place for a few seconds, then you can learn to access it for a minute, and then for a few minutes — and then perhaps, for even longer. After all, if it was true before, is it not true now?

Remember, mindfulness isn’t a state of continual, uninterrupted present moment awareness; but rather, it’s a practice of noticing when your attention wanders and gently — ever so gently, without judgment — returning your attention to the present moment, one breath at a time. 

Reflection: Have you experienced moments of quiet and calm? What techniques do you use to get back to that mindset?

WEEK TEN PRACTICE SUGGESTION: See if you can enjoy a moment of inner calm. Perhaps you can find it by focusing on just one breath, focusing on the sounds of the birds outside your window or focusing on the feeling of your feet touching the ground as you walk.

Thus ends this series, 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and have found some techniques that you can practice to help you enhance your life, both at work and at home.

I’ve written this 10-week series to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind, a primer for beginning meditators.

Available on Kindle for 99¢ from July 20 – July 25. A perfect summer read for those new to meditation and those more experienced who want a refresher.

Wishing you many mindful moments!

10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work

She stepped up to the front of the room for her presentation, touched the smooth stone tucked into her pocket and smiled confidently.

She had just learned the stone meditation when I presented mindfulness techniques to her group — and she emailed me to say how “surprised and delighted” she was that something as simple as a stone could help calm her nerves.

Welcome to week nine of 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work, where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness.

– Cultivating Present Moment Awareness

When I offer in-person mindfulness programs, I typically bring a basket of stones. (For virtual programs, I recommend folks have a stone or other small object handy.) The purpose of the stone is to give people a tangible focal point, since focusing on one’s breath can be challenging. 

If you’re curious about meditating with a stone, here are some simple instructions. Practice for a few seconds or for as long as you’d like!

Place a small stone in the palm of your hand. Gently rest your attention on it, noticing its various characteristics, including the weight of the stone, its temperature, shape, texture and size. Any time your attention wanders, gently bring it back to your stone, even if it’s every second or two.

– Cultivating Strength

You can also use the stone to help cultivate the quality of strength. To practice, rest your attention on the solidity and strength of stone — either the stone in your hand or by imagining another form of stone, such as a mountain. Whenever your attention wanders, gently bring it back to the stone and its quality of strength. 

Imagining this strength in your mind and body will help cultivate this quality within you. You can also keep the stone in your pocket as a reminder of your inner strength, just as I described at the beginning of this post.

– Adding Space

Here’s a third way to practice with your stone. This technique is designed to add space to your STUFF — the Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations and Feelings that typically cycle in the mind.

Imagine your mind is like the surface of a lake. Now imagine skipping your stone over the surface. Watch as the spaces between the waves of your STUFF become wider and wider, just as the rings of water become wider when you skip a stone on a lake’s surface. 

WEEK NINE PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Find a smooth stone to hold in your hand. Try any (or all!) of the three techniques described.

**10th Anniversary

Be on the lookout for a 99¢ Kindle promotion from July 20 – July 25 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind,” a step-by-step book for beginning meditators. Also available in paperback and audiobook.

10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work

As I wrapped up my presentation, one of the participants approached me. “You know that walking meditation we learned last week? It literally saved me. I was dealing with such a difficult time that I just wanted to curl up on the floor and shut out the world. But I needed to function. I stopped everything I was doing and just put one foot in front of the other and focused on the feeling of my feet connecting with the ground.”

Wow. The power of a practice as simple as a walking meditation “saved” her. And the wonderful part of a walking meditation is that it’s easily accessible no matter where you are — physically or emotionally. 

Welcome to week seven of “10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work” where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness. I hope you find inspiration from this series!

– Practice a walking meditation anywhere and anytime

You can practice a walking meditation most anywhere and anytime. When I presented a program at Marriott Corporate Headquarters, I recommended practicing a walking meditation for the one minute it took employees to walk under the long canopy leading from the parking lot to the main office.

Look for opportunities to practice. Try a walking meditation when you walk to the water cooler, the coffee machine, the rest room, down the hall, up the stairs and so on. You can practice a walking meditation anytime you walk, whether for two steps or two miles.

– How to practice

Simply rest your attention on the movements of your legs and feet as you walk. You can be practice indoors or outdoors, for just a few steps or for as long as you’d like.

Lift your right leg to take a step, and silently say to yourself “lifting.” Move your right leg forward, and silently say to yourself “moving.” Place your right foot down on the ground, and silently say to yourself “placing.” As you shift the weight onto your right foot, silently say to yourself “shifting.” Begin the process again with the left foot: lifting, moving, placing, shifting.

Continue silently repeating these words to yourself with each step. Any time your attention wanders, gently refocus on the words and the movements of your body.

– A simple phrase to help you remember

The phrase “let my peace show” may help you remember these instructions, since the first letter of each of these words corresponds with “lifting, moving, placing and shifting.” 

WEEK SEVEN PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Try a walking meditation — even for just a few steps. 

**Celebrating a 10th Anniversary

Be on the lookout for a 99¢ Kindle promotion in July to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind,” a step-by-step book for beginning meditators. Available in Kindle, paperback and audiobook.

Engage Your Senses for a Good Night’s Sleep

Is your busy mind keeping you awake at night? By shifting your attention to what you’re experiencing with your senses, you can begin to loosen the grip of cycling thoughts.

What you see

Color: Consider decorating your bedroom with water colors and soft pastels. Select paint colors, bedding colors, and pillow colors that will help make your room an oasis of tranquility. Unlike vibrant primary colors which can be energizing, these soft colors can be soothing and calming—and help prepare you for a good night’s sleep. 

Screen time: In addition to what you see, it’s also important to consider what you don’t see. Try to get in the habit of refraining from screen time for at least an hour prior to bedtime. When you’re in front of a screen your body may think it’s daytime and this can interfere with the release of hormones that help you sleep.

What you hear

Sound machine: Nature sounds or continual sound like white noise can offer you a resting place for your attention. Any time you’re distracted by cycling thoughts, simply shift your attention to what you hear—even if you have to make this attention shift every second or two.  

What you smell

Aromatherapy: Scents can help you relax, and lavender is known for its soothing aroma. When you have trouble falling asleep, adding lavender essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser can send you off to dreamland, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz as she entered the poppy fields. 

What you feel

Weighted blanket: Sleeping with a weighted blanket on top of you can help relax your muscles. If you tend to get warm when you sleep, consider using a “cooling” style of weighted blanket. It’s typically recommended to use a blanket that’s no heavier than 10% of your body weight.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise: Practicing a progressive muscle relaxation helps to release physical tension. This exercise consists of a gentle tightening and releasing of each muscle group to help you differentiate between what a muscle feels like when it’s tensed versus what it feels like when it’s relaxed. Any time your mind wanders, gently shift your attention back to how your body feels. You can listen to a guided progressive muscle relaxation meditation on the Mindful 180 podcast, episode 51 (on most popular apps) or listen on: https://joyrains.com/episode-51/.


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